LACONIA — Faced with a possible $80,000 shortfall to cover health insurance costs for county employees, Belknap County Commissioners are encouraging the 30 non-union employees of the county to shift their insurance to a site of service plan from a more-costly HMO plan.
Commissioners say that their plan calls for a 1.4 cost of living increase plus a step increase for eligible employees retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year which would add another 3 percent to their pay.
The county would also pay the entire tab for the site of service plan, which, according to Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), would reduce the county's costs by $1,374 for a single plan, $3,050 for a two-person plan and $4,119 for a family plan compared to what the county currently pays as its share of the HMO plan.
Currently county employees pay either 5 percent or 6.5 percent of their premiums on the more costly HMO plans, which DeVoy said will subject the county to paying a 40 percent ''Cadillac tax'' on those plans in 2018 unless their costs can be brought down by that time. He says that it is estimated that the tax would $150,000 to the county budget at that time.
Both DeVoy and Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that they were amenable to a wage increase based on the savings the county will realize by a shift to the a site of service plan and are hoping that many employees will switch over to that plan by July 1.
Currently the county offers two plans, an HMO with a $20 co-pay and a site of service plan with a $1,000 deductible.
The HMO costs $845.19 a month for a single plan, with a weekly payroll deduction of $12.68, $1,690.37 per month for a two-person plan with a weekly payroll deduction of $19.50, and $2,282 a month for a family plan with a weekly payroll deduction of $26.33.
The site of service plan costs $675.77 a month for a single plan, $1,351.55 a month for a two-person plan, and $1,824.59 a month for a family plan. There are no payroll deductions for those plans.
Taylor, who is heading up negotiations with the county's four labor unions, said last week that he is trying to get the HMO changed to a site of service plan in a new contract and has had some success with one of the unions, but that the other three are not looking favorably upon the proposal.
He said that the commissioners should be meeting with the County Convention to discuss the projected shortfall in the near future so that a plan can be worked out to deal with it. ''The longer you wait, the more drastic action will be required. We don't want to wait until August or September,'' said Taylor.
DeVoy said that the commissioners don't want to weaken employee morale with talks of possible layoffs and said that the county budget contains $200,000 in contingency money, a portion of which could be used to fund the projected shortfall.
DeVoy and Taylor suggested that an employee who made $50,000 a year and was on a family plan would realize a $2,200 raise and a reduction of $1,400 in health insurance premium costs, which would help offset the $1,000 deductible in the site of service plan.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) questioned those numbers and cautioned that employees at the top of the wage scale within their bracket might not be receiving enough of a wage increase to cover their increased costs.
He also said that he thinks it is important that the commissioners meet with the convention to discuss the situation, observing that the plan to save the county money on insurance costs can't be put in place without the cooperation of the unions.
DeVoy and Taylor said that they wanted to see every employee come out ahead in the contract negotiations.
''Right now we're bogged own,'' said Taylor, who along with the other commissioners agreed to hold off on hiring for any positions not deemed vital until commissioners know their situation better.
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